AC Milan will be facing their toughest challenge yet this season in traveling to the Bernabeu to face the red-hot Real Madrid side. Milan is fresh off a resounding 3-1 victory over Chievo in the Serie A, while Madrid returns on the back of a 4-1 thrashing of Malaga at the Estadio La Rosaleda.
The timing of the match couldn't be any worse for Milan in the sense that Real Madrid have started to gel very well as a team in recent weeks, but it also provides an unique opportunity for Milan to announce their European ambitions in a big way against a top-class foe.
Sure, last season Milan beat this same Real Madrid side in the group stages of the Champions League by a 3-2 scoreline, but that was a different Madrid side which featured a misfiring Kaka and Karim Benzema, and also was missing their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The main threat to Milan will arguably not be the Portuguese winger, but will be the German playmaker Mesut Ozil. Ozil has enjoyed a steady run of outstanding performances after really coming into his own during the World Cup, and is shredding teams apart right now with both club and country.
Milan will be relying on their high-powered attack, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic spearheading the frontline alongside Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato. The game will be won or lost for Milan in the midfield, however, and it is for this reason that Max Allegri must drop Gennaro Gattuso for the game.
Gattuso has had a mini-renaissance of late, enjoying a run of steady performances, but these were against the likes of Chievo, Parma and Genoa, none of whom possess anywhere near the midfield and attacking threats that Madrid have in their arsenal.
Ozil, Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and even Sami Khedira have been fearless in pushing up to the attacking third this season, and the match against Milan should be no exception.
That being said, This is how I expect the two teams to line up at the Bernabeu:
Goalkeeper: Christian Abbiati
Defense: Luca Antonini, Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva, Gianluca Zambrotta
Midfield: Kevin-Prince Boateng, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf
Attack: Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
Defense: Alvaro Arbeloa, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Sergio Ramos
Midfield: Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria
Attack: Gonzalo Higuain
Despite my renewed faith in Milan this year, I have a hard time seeing them triumph over Mourinho's Real Madrid outfit due to their alarming lack of quality wing-backs and the emergence of Ozil as a world-class talent beside Ronaldo. I hope I'm wrong, but I predict a 2-1 victory for Los Blancos come Tuesday night in Madrid.